OXFORD — While Bob Hostetler, a pastor at Cobblestone Church, did not ask his congregation to give the shirts of their back, he certainly came close.
Explaining to the 150 people in the pews that the Kehr Road church would be partnering with Soles4Souls until Christmas, Hostetler on Sunday morning, Nov. 21, surprised churchgoers with an unexpected turn in his sermon.“Every person in this church came in wearing shoes,” he said. “See where I’m going with this?”
There was a little murmuring and nervous shuffling at this request to take the shoes off their feet, donate them to Soles4Souls, and go home barefoot.
“I know you’re thinking ‘Dang, I’m wearing my favorite pair of shoes’ but I can’t think of any better way to share the gospel than to leave this church barefoot,” said Hostetler. “I was actually praying for snow today.”
Debra Gardner said she decided to donate her footwear “Because God blesses me every day.”
By the end of the service there were four neat rows of shoes of all shapes and sizes lined up across the front of the church.
Aaron Hostetler, a member of the band, donated his pair of shoes that he said he wears almost every day. “I felt God was tapping me on the shoulder, and I felt him talking in that direction,” he said.
Donating the shoes off her feet held special meaning for Jo Nuskey, who said she was glad to let someone in need have her shoes because there was a time when she could not afford to buy them.
Mostly, members seemed to agree that donating something as important as their shoes was a good way to practice living selflessly.
“I thought it was a good exercise,” said member Brett Strickland.
Soles4Souls is a charity that collects shoes and donates them across the world to areas where shoes are a luxury for the poor. The Cobblestone Church will be collecting shoes from now until Christmas.
Last year, the church raised money during the Christmas season to build nine wells in other countries. In comparison, Hostetler said that he knew this year’s surprise charity request was riskier, but he was moved by the response.
“You know, I’ve been going to church for 52 years now,” said Hostetler, looking at the pile of shoes. “And this is about the most beautiful thing that I’ve ever seen.”